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Embassy row: US & Germany jump into spat over WWII outbreak between Russia and Poland

Embassy row: US & Germany jump into spat over WWII outbreak between Russia and Poland
The dispute between Warsaw and Moscow over what started the Second World War – yes, really – has now expanded to Poland’s allies, as first the US and then the German envoy chimed in with revisionist history.

“Dear President Putin, Hitler and Stalin colluded to start WWII. That is a fact. Poland was a victim of this horrible conflict,” US ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher tweeted on Monday – in both English and Polish, suggesting that her message of “collusion” was intended more for domestic consumption than for the Russian head of state.

“Dear Ambassador, do you really think that you know about history any more than you do about diplomacy?” the Russian embassy in Warsaw responded, in English. This likely referred to the fact that Mossbacher used to be the CEO of a cosmetics company before President Barack Obama appointed her to a diplomatic commission in 2015. She was sent to Warsaw in September 2018 by President Donald Trump.

Within an hour, none other than the German envoy in Warsaw saw fit to chime in, repeating Berlin’s official position, which – not surprisingly – echoed that of Poland and the US.

“The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact served to prepare the criminal invasion of Nazi Germany against Poland. The USSR together with Germany participated in this brutal division of Poland,” Ambassador Rolf Nikel wrote, in Polish. 

The 1939 non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union is often referred to by the names of their respective foreign ministers, Joachim von Ribbentrop and Vyacheslav Molotov. It was inked on August 23, just a week before the Nazi invasion of Poland.

Modern Warsaw has argued – and got the US and the EU to agree – that this somehow caused the Second World War, and that the Soviets are just as guilty as the Nazis of invading Poland, since their troops entered from the east on September 16. Germany then invaded the Soviet Union less than two years later.

While modern Russia has rejected and condemned much of the legacy of the Soviet Union, its overwhelming role in defeating Nazi Germany in WWII is a line in the sand for Moscow – and revising history to assert moral equivalence between the German Reich and the USSR is simply unacceptable. That is what the Russian ambassador to Warsaw told his hosts when he was summoned on Friday, in the previous installment of the ongoing quarrel.

Poland had taken offense to last week’s remarks by Putin about Jozef Lipski, the Polish ambassador to Berlin (1934-39), whom the Russian president called “a bastard and anti-Semitic pig.” This was based on Lipski’s own words from 1938, when the envoy told Hitler that the Poles would “erect him a beautiful monument in Warsaw” if he carried out the plan to expel European Jews to Africa. 

The same year, Poland joined Germany in partitioning Czechoslovakia at the Munich conference, when Britain and France agreed to carve up that Eastern European country to appease Hitler, despite – or because of? – the Soviet offer of security guarantees to Prague.

Lipski’s remarks are a matter of public record and no one is contesting their veracity – which is why neither Warsaw nor its NATO allies are talking about them, choosing to repeat Polish talking points in service of a very modern argument about an “aggressive” Russia.

Soviet troops liberated Poland from the Nazis in 1944, and installed a pro-communist government in Warsaw after the war. After the collapse of communism, however, Warsaw went from being a vassal of Moscow to being one of Washington – and engaging in questionable historical revisionism to make the past better fit the present.

That is how Germany’s Angela Merkel found herself as an honored guest at the September 1 commemoration of the 80th anniversary of the war’s outbreak, while Putin was not even invited. A far bigger insult is the decision not to invite the Russian president to the upcoming January 27 anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by the Red Army’s 1st Ukrainian Front.

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